Title: Disgaea 1 Complete
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software America
Release Date: October 9th, 2018 (NA)
Review copy provided by Nippon Ichi Software America
At the Switch’s launch in Japan, NIS released a port of the formerly PS4-exclusive Disgaea 5 on Switch as Disgaea 5 Complete, which contained all the DLC. Fast forward to now, and NIS has released a remake of the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, originally for PS2, on the Switch in HD! This is actually the game’s second go on Nintendo platforms, after Disgaea DS on the, you guessed it, DS.
How is the game? Will it be fun as hell or make you feel like hell? Let’s find out!
Laharl in the castle hub area.
Disgaea 1 Complete stars a boy demon named Laharl, who wakes up after a long slumber to find out that his dad, ruler of the Netherworld, has passed away while he slept. Instead of grieving over his dad’s passing, Laharl is only interested in ascending to the throne. Laharl is accompanied by his devil-like assistant Etna and her trio of penguin-like Prinny soldiers. These make up your team to start out with in this tactical RPG.
The basics of the game is that it’s your usual tactical JRPG like Fire Emblem or more recently Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. You take turns moving across a certain amount of tiles. Be within distance of an enemy and you can do a normal attack or maybe attack with an offensive special attack. Some weapons, such as bows and arrows allow you to attack from a small distance. Normally you have to be in contact of an enemy to use normal attacks (so in a “+” sort of position; front, behind, or the left or right side directly). Arrows don’t follow this rule so you can be more to the side and still hit.
Vera (a Cleric) and the general command menu.
Some special attacks also have more freedom of positioning. Some moves, offensive or defensive, can affect multiple tiles and anything in them at once. An important note is that the game’s pretty strict on you only being able to move and do one action per turn. You can cancel a movement as long as your original tile isn’t then used by another character, same for really any action as long as you don’t execute it yet. You can also simply defend, allowing you to take less damage from an attack for the turn, but that counts as the one action.
You’re given choices on how to do things besides that. You can execute all selected attacks and then choose more afterwards, or you can just end the turn after any actions are done. You can also look at the bonus rewards, check your stats, or even quit to the title screen (naturally deleting any unsaved progress, so save often!). I recommend quitting to the title screen if you need to rather than closing the game and then restarting it, since the initial load time is surprisingly long.
A look at the Dark Assembly.
With that out the way, let’s talk more about the story and how you get around. To start, you’re in your castle, and you make your way to the main area where all the essentials are, such as the weapons and armor shop, a place to heal, so on and so forth. You’re given a small run-through of the options available, but your first goal is to form a larger party via the Dark Assembly, which is more or less a character creator.
You get to pick from a variety of classes with naturally different abilities and weapon specialties. Each class (bar Prinnies) have rankings in a bunch of weapon classes, from D (the worst) to S (the best). One class could have a lot of D’s, a couple of B’s and one S for example. One class such as Brawlers specialize in fist weapons typically, while the Clerics specialize in staffs. Some classes are handy to have for their special skills, such as the Cleric’s heal ability, so go for that early on.
The Dimension Guide menu.
Once you’re done, you then go to the Dimension Guide, where the game begins proper. Here you go through different areas with various missions (with some including cutscenes). You start off by going through a tutorial to get the hang of things in the first area, but once the second one begins you really get things going.
A couple of the tutorial bits include lifting and throwing characters (handy for getting characters further in one turn), as well as learning about Geo Symbols. These are pyramids of different colors, and each have a set of glowing tiles on the battlefield of said color. There’s a trick to them, where if you lift and throw say a blue one into a red tile, and then destroy it, then all red tiles will become blue ones. While the tiles change, all combatants take damage (even your own), and also build a combo meter, and the higher your combo, the larger your bonus gauge fills.
Laharl’s status screen.
The bonus gauge is very special as it determines the amount of bonus goodies you earn after a match ends, up to 9 levels for a total of 10 items (so you always get one even if your bonus gauge is at the default level 0). Bonuses include weapons, money (called HL), extra experience points for anyone out on the field, items, etc. During your breaks at the castle, you can also heal your party using HL, and you can earn more bonus items as you heal more and more party members, including reviving dead ones.
Visually it’s a bit mixed. The original game was a PS2 title and while the character and item sprites are all now in HD (seemingly all ripped from Disgaea 5), as well as the textures on the ground being in HD, there’s the issue of the 3D models being untouched. Even in the intro scene with Laharl waking up from his slumber, you see that his coffin has very low-res textures. Such an odd thing to not polish up. The game seems to be high-res enough (likely 720p docked as Disgaea 5 Complete was 720p docked as well). The game runs at a silky smooth 60fps though. Characters all look fantastic though, and all the original cutscene artwork from the original PS2 version is retained in HD.
I am the terror that whooshes in the night!
Audio-wise it’s pretty good. Music’s decent, but the main show is the plentiful voice-acting in English and Japanese. Some bits at random aren’t voiced, but stuff that is sounds excellent, if a bit over-the-top at times (particularly Etna). All classes have their own voices which is a neat touch as well. Actually I did like a couple of the music tracks. The music often is an over-the-top Halloween style. Damn shame they couldn’t somehow get Thurl Ravenscroft in here since he was still alive at the time of the game’s release on PS2, that would definitely have been grrrrreat!.
Overall the game’s honestly in the middle-ground for me, more good than bad. I found it a bit odd in how it progresses. You sort of stay stuck in the castle as your hub and just fight battle after battle. And it gets rather difficult since you can have like two dozen opponents at once and it can get a bit overwhelming. You can create more party members, but leveling them up is a challenge as experience gains seem a bit on the low side. For me Laharl is pretty over-leveled compared to the rest of the party. Also the camera system is AWFUL because you can only rotate it by 90 degrees at a time, and if anything’s blocked by terrain, good luck without moving folks around. It’s really annoying. The highlight honestly are the cutscenes since the characters are legit interesting and again well voice-acted. There’s a lot of personality. For me Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is the FAR better tactics game.
+ The game’s got a lot of personality. Characters have great designs.
+ Voice-acting is well done, with both English and Japanese options which is the norm for NISA.
+ The battlefields look nice, plus the overall art-style is nifty.
+ Music’s cool at times.
+ Once you reach the title screen, there’s very little loading seen at all.
+ Multiple save files.
+ Nice variety of classes to choose from. Some even come with variants!
+ Has screenshot and video capture support.
– It gets quite challenging when your overwhelmed by opponents and this happens early on.
– Experience gaining seems slow and I found myself with an uneven party level-wise.
– Characters can do combo moves depending on their formation when attacking opponents, and the results are way too random. Sometimes two attack, sometimes three, it’s random and I can’t figure out for the life of me how to do this properly…
– Uneven graphical quality. The 3D objects look unchanged from the PS2 original.